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Twilight Zone, Episode 1.17: The Fever
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by Chris Parry

"Twelve minutes of watching a guy playing slots can get boring..."
2 stars

“Mr and Mrs Franklin Gibbs; three days and two nights, all expenses paid at a Las Vegas hotel, won by virtue of Mrs Gibbs’ knack with a phrase. But unbeknownst to either Mr or Mrs Gibbs is the fact that there’s a prize in that package neither expected nor bargained for. In just a moment one of them will succumb to an illness worse than any virus can produce, a most inoperative, deadly, life-shattering affliction known… as the fever.”

Mr and Mrs Gibbs are your average down home Texas couple in the 50’s, moral, upstanding, and smarter than everyone else, or so they think. But when they win a trip to Vegas with an unlimited credit limit, Mr Gibbs takes a hard line against the immoral practice of gambling… that is until a drunk puts a dollar in a slot machine for him and wins him a handful of cash. That’s when things start to get out of control…

Directed by French cinema legend, Robert Florey (Desert Song, The Cocoanuts, Murders in the Rue Morgue) and penned by Rod Serling, The Fever does a lot with a small number of sets and a low budget. Florey’s horror movie experience comes to the fore towards the end as he paints a picture of impending insanity that builds to an ugly demise, and though the final scene is reminiscent of all too many episodes of the series (a whole lot of folks seem to be clumsy around windows in Twilight Zone land), it’s extremely watchable.

Everett Sloane, as Mr Gibbs, is suitably into his lead role and definitely carries the episode like a veteran of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater should. A veteran of over 15,000 radioplay broadcasts, as well as numerous TV and stage playhouse productions (he was also the voice of Dick Tracy) and feature films (Citizen Kane, the Patsy), Sloane would commit suicide six years after this broadcast, as he feared he was going blind. Whatever his health issues, it’s plain to see that any problems didn’t dim his acting ability.

Health issues can’t be used as a defence for Vivi Janiss, on the other hand, who as Mrs Gibbs manages to annoy more than entertain. She’s just so god damn plain! While Sloane is spilling his guts on the table, Janiss is smiling and blinking like a lovesick puppy. Janiss was never more than a bit player in series TV (Barney Miller, Hawaii Five-O, Father Knows Best), with the occasional film role thrown in for good measure, and though someone deemed her good enough for a second Twilight Zone role early in the following season, she stays totally to form in this dire outing.

The storyline, about a man who is slowly possessed by a slot machine, is neither groundbreaking nor riveting, and if not for Sloane giving it his unholy all and Florey’s directorial flair over the last five minutes, this episode would be one of the great forgotten 22 minute spells of sci-fi. It’s nowhere near as funny, surprising or thought provoking as many of the other episodes of the time, and though it’s a long way from terrible, the entertaining ending only serves to highlight how pedestrian the preceding fifteen minutes is.

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originally posted: 07/10/02 18:15:55
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This episode of Twilight Zone has been reviewed as part of an ongoing retro TV series. For more in the Twilight Zone Episodes series, click here.

User Comments

5/23/07 action movie fan interesting 3 stars
7/15/04 Cathy Frazier That "Franklin," "Franklin" was just great! 5 stars
7/09/04 Kathy Backer As a child, it scared me to death!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
10/03/02 adfgad a great film 5 stars
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  29-Jan-1960 (NR)


  29-Jan-1960 (G)

Directed by
  Robert Florey

Written by
  Rod Serling

  Everett Sloane
  Vivi Janiss

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